Being the top ranked rugby school is never easy, as everyone is out to beat you. Grey College, though, makes it extremely tough for their opponents to even get a sniff of a chance of doing that.
Grey College finished their 2011 schools' rugby campaign unbeaten and topped the FNB Top 20 for most of the season, as they went on to confirm their status as arguably the best school's rugby side in the country.
For Grey College's head of rugby, Dries van der Wal, it is not enough to just win a game. His charges have to play "the Grey College way." And the foundation for that was laid down when the team set out their goals for the season.
Van der Wal told Classicclashes.co.za: "The goal of each first team is to play good Grey rugby and to finish the season without losing a game."
So, no pressure then on the players?
No pressure at all, judging by the way that this Grey side got their campaign off to a start. They smashed Duineveld 85-3 and never looked back.
"A player knows that there is pressure if you play for the First XV of Grey College," Van der Wal said. "They also know that every game is going to be a tough one. So we go about our preparations the same way for every match.
"You also need to keep in mind that the team did not play together through the age groups but developed as the season progressed," Van der Wal explained.
That then makes their achievement of going through the season unbeaten all the more remarkable, considering the opposition they faced - Monument, Paarl Gim, Waterkloof, Selborne, Affies, Paarl Boys and Paul Roos. All schools with a tradition of rugby excellence as rich as Grey's own.
It is against these schools that the true measure of one's progress as a rugby power is measured and for Grey it was no exception.
"Every Grey team has its own character and this team was no exception. The way the team played in the first few games showed that this was going to be a team that would play with guts and determination and they proved that in the four games against Waterkloof, Monnas, Affies and Paarl Gim - all games that we won.
"The games against Waterkloof and Monnas, though, were our toughest. But the boys' commitment on defence, in those games, was impressive. They played against boys who were physically much bigger and stronger than they were, but they never gave an inch to them that wasn't fought for," Van der Wal said.
After achieving their goal of finishing their season unbeaten, which included two draws against Selborne and Paarl Boys, can Grey College go one better and finish the 2012 season with a one hundred percent win record?
"It will be a new year and a new team and with it, new challenges," a cagey Van der Wal said, "so we'll have to wait and see."
By Zunaid Ismael
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